Vince Dunn's OT goal carries Kraken to vital 2-1 victory over Sharks
The Seattle Kraken avoided diaster in San Jose on Thursday night.
Oliver Bjorkstrand tied the game with a breakaway in the third period and Vince Dunn beat Sharks goaltender James Reimer for the game-winner in overtime as the Kraken escaped with a critical 2-1 victory.
"A lot of desperation. Right now we need everyone on board and we showed a good example of that tonight," Dunn told Piper Shaw of ROOT Sports. "… We just found a way to do it."
Riding a three-game losing streak into Thursday night, the Kraken's hold on a playoff spot was starting to get a bit tenuous. The Sharks entered with the worst record in the Western Conference. With two daunting matchups ahead with the Edmonton Oilers and Dallas Stars, the Kraken couldn't afford to allow the two points on offer against the Sharks to slip away.
Cue the heroics of Bjorkstrand and Dunn to save the day.
Yanni Gourde delivered a brilliant pass from Seattle's own goal line to Bjorkstrand just across center ice to spark the breakaway. Bjorkstrand then snapped a shot into the top right corner to tie the game at 1-1 with 12:57 left to play.
Neither side could break the deadlock as the game headed to overtime. Seattle survived the opening minute after Alex Wennberg's stick broke on the face-off leaving the Kraken effectively short-handed. Once the Kraken gained possession of the puck, they took over. Bjorkstrand cycled back into the neutral zone to reset before passing ahead to Dunn, who skated in on defenseman Nikolai Knyzhov before snapping a shot between Reimer's legs for the victory.
"Great play by [Bjorkstrand]," Dunn said. "Came up clutch in the last 13 minutes there for us. Those are really big points that we need right now. However we can get them we just need to get it done," Dunn said.
The goal extends Dunn's point streak to a career-high and franchise record 11 games. The goal is Dunn's 13th of the season, which also is a new career-high.
"It's not pretty but it's a real good play by him," head coach Dave Hakstol said of Dunn. "Being able to pull it, shoot it through a screen in that spot. That's a tough save for their goaltender, who had been really good all night.
Since January 1, Dunn has 37 points in 34 games played. That pace over a full season would be an 89-point season, which would have been second in the NHL among all defensemen behind only Roman Josi's 96 points last year. Dunn's 56 points this season is already a career-high and he has a chance to reach 70 points for the year with his current pace.
Philipp Grubauer was superb in net for Seattle as well. Grubauer made 31 saves on 32 shots with San Jose's only goal coming on a penalty shot from William Elkund. After a scoreless first two periods, Ryan Donato was called for a slashing penalty as Eklund streaked in on net to give the rookie a penalty shot attempt. Eklund beat Grubauer through the legs to give the Sharks a 1-0 lead just 1:18 into the final period.
Hakstol said he liked the way the team played through the first 40 minutes even though they didn't have anything to show for it on the scoreboard.
"Wobbled a little bit when we gave up that first goal against," Hakstol said. "That next 6-7 minutes [Grubauer] was really good for us. He just stabilized us and took care of things, settled things down until we were able to get the equalizer and then we were good from there again."
The last time the Kraken played in San Jose in February, they authored one of their worst performances of the season. Reimer shutout the Kraken in a 4-0 loss that started a three-game skid with ensuing losses to the Boston Bruins and Toronto Maple Leafs. With the Oilers and Stars next up before a back-to-back with a lingering Nashville Predators team, the team could not afford another Bay Area bust.
"Last time we were in here wasn't the game we were looking for and we didn't grab the point so we wanted to make sure to get the points today," Grubauer said. "Coming up is a pretty big test. We're playing teams that are even with us in the standings or ahead a couple points so you can't waste any points tonight."
Reimer stopped 30 of 32 shots on the night for the Sharks in the loss.
The Kraken (83) remain seven points ahead of the Calgary Flames (76), who are the first team out of the playoff picture in the Western Conference. Seattle currently holds the first Wild Card spot in the conference and is just one point behind the Oilers for the third spot in the Pacific Division. The Kraken have a game in hand as well on both Edmonton and Calgary.